“Cash Only”

By Melissa Robert
If American Express’s slogan is, “Don’t leave home without it”, then San Francisco’s should be, “For fine drinks and cuisine, bring the green”. It is absolutely common-place to see that dreaded CASH ONLY sign in windows and above registers at establishments across the city. I’m sure the native San Franciscans are completely accustomed to stopping at the ATM or selecting the cash back option at the register while checking out at Safeway. But, if you’re new here or just passing through, you are most likely wondering why small businesses are resistant to plastic. There are a few reasons why cash is king when it comes to SMB payment options in the Bay Area.

I’m sure you could easily guess the first, cost. It’s no surprise that the margins of profitability are slim for industries in which small businesses thrive. Many owners simply feel that card processing fees are too high to justify the added convenience to customers. In truth, debit, credit, and gift cards can cost anywhere from less than 1% to around 3%, but then there are fees. The fees for accepting plastic can be monthly or per transaction. Secondly, merchants and processing companies are required to report all credit card sales to the government. This can be perceived as a headache by many businesses that are more concerned with ordering supplies, managing employees, and daily operations.

Lastly, when does a $25.00 transaction cost a mom & pop shop $50.00 or more? The really pricey side of cashless payments is the risk of chargebacks. When a cardholder disputes a transaction the merchant must pay a fee which may or may not be refunded if the dispute is ruled in favor of the merchant. These fees can run anywhere from $15.00 – $35.00. Chargebacks can be filed for a number of reasons; lost/stolen card, suspected fraud, non-receipt of good/services, unsatisfactory product, and the list goes on. The sad truth is that there are card holders that genuinely never intend on paying for their purchase. This trend causes small business owners to be weary, and depending on the industry, rightfully so.

So now that you know the good, the bad and the ugly of card transactions, it’s easy to agree that there are still plenty of businesses that are worth the pit stop to carry cash. In a city full of cash only businesses, you’ll also be happy to know that there are many, many ATM’s – many located inside or right by places afflicted by credit-card-a-phobia. Here are a few of the memorable cash-happy spots I’ve visited as of late.

Brews at Zeitgeist

Bender’s Bar & Grill in the Mission, located off S. Van Ness and 19th, is the perfect spot to shoot some pool, grab a brew and a bite. The menu includes battered artichoke hearts, sandwiches, and tacos a la carte. If this is your starting point for an evening of drinks then might I suggest the “The Great American Trailer Trash Grilled Mac N’ Cheese Sando”. Indeed, it is as indulgent and delicious as it sounds. The hot dogs and jalapeno potato chips inside every bite will give you the texture and heat your little heart desires. Check out their Facebook to see the schedule for live shows on the weekends, the music will give your friends something to listen to while you chew.

With over 40 beers on tap and an ATM on premise, it’s easy to see why Zeitgeist SF makes the short list. The ample seating with picnic tables in a large outdoor space appeals to my native Texan senses. Lucky you, you’re in SF, so the weather permits this patio area to draw crowds without fear of 106 degree summers. Yes, there is also a small menu from the grill and liquor is available as well. If day drinking is your thing, we won’t define the time of day, the bloody mary is a winning choice. And you know what they say, liquor before beer and you’re… getting close to creating a pattern of going back to liquor. Or, however that saying goes.

If you’re in the Pacific Heights area and looking for a cool pregame spot before shaking what your mama gave you, check out Lion Pub. This bar features a large drink menu and fresh squeezed juices supplied right before your eyes by the bartender of your choosing. Popular drinks include the greyhound, a wide array of margaritas, or give the cantaloupe and passion fruit mojito a try. The bar and seating area might seem crowded but the upbeat music will put you in the mood to dance, and when you make it up to the bar, why not order a double? Oh, and they too have an ATM on site with many patrons making return visits.

Helpful Hint: Just because your bank advertises no-fee ATM usage on your debit cards does not always mean it’s completely free. Ask a branch representative about surcharge reimbursements or research other banks, credit unions, and ATM networks that offer truly free ATM usage.

Spotlight SF: Tataki South

TatakiBy Melissa Robert                           Directly on Church Street and just steps from the Muni J line sits a Noe Valley institution, Tataki South. With three locations in San Francisco, this sushi spot is sure to satiate your cravings for fresh fish and wasabi. Dinner service begins at 5 pm as does happy hour which runs till 7 pm. If you’re wondering whether happy hour is only Monday through Friday then I have some great news, happy hour is 5 – 7 pm everyday!

The happy hour prices at Tataki are so fantastic that even you’re stingiest friends with sharing issues can order to their hearts content without risk of heart attack when the bill arrives. The house hot sake is a must, and atop many tables you’ll see large bottles of Kirin beer – only $4.00 during hh. But, if you’re in the mood for something light and refreshing be sure to order the Kin-San-Gria. The Tataki spin on sangria is a tasty duo of sake and riesling served over ice with diced strawberries and lychee fruit. In addition to the selection of rolls, the happy hour menu also includes rotating appetizers such as calamari, oysters, and Tataki’s take on sliders.

A staple starter is the garlic edamame which makes a bold and tangy introduction on the palate, yet finishes savory with the taste of citrus and garlic. The robata section of the menu includes many slow-cooked skewer options. If you try just one, i’d recommend the bacon wrapped mushrooms, Enoki Dreams. But hey, variety is the spice of life, so spring for the chef’s tasting which includes 5 skewers – more bang for your buck!

The specialty rolls at Tataki are on fire! No seriously, pick the right roll and you’ll have more than a spoonful of wasabi to extinguish. Feeling lucky? Take a chance with the Russian roulette roll, one piece is extra spicy. But, as they say, with great risk comes great reward. So, if you’re the lucky winner of said spicy bite, you’ll also enjoy the shot of cool sake which arrives in the middle of the circle of sushi.
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Tataki South features main dining room and sushi bar seating in the front of house, as well as a newer sports bar area in the back. The Fall 2013 addition, complete with multiple tv’s, is a hit with patrons and can accommodate a small to medium sized group. The next question is usually about the quality of service. With different experiences across SF, i’m happy to report that Tataki servers are attentive and friendly. Isn’t it nice to dine in a place where the staff also seems happy to be there?

Last, but not least, veggie lovers rejoice. There is a complete vegetarian section to the menu! Although, I’m not sure they will prepare your tofu in the shape of a turkey. I kid, they might – you should ask. Be sure to check out www.TatakiSushiBar.com for the locations and menus.

Tips: Request soy paper on your next roll, you won’t be disappointed. Check out the list of fresh fish, the Uni here is the best i’ve had thus far. Try a sashimi plate to sample multiple kinds of fish without getting full on rice. The other two Tataki locations don’t take reservations, but Tataki South will take a reservation for parties of 6 or more.

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San Francisco Brunch Tips And 3 Spots Topping Our Brunch List

FrescaSFBy Melissa Robert                                                                                                                                                     It’s good to know that no matter where I travel, brunch is still a thing. And let’s be honest, there are few things which are better than a delicious brunch shared with your favorite people. I find myself weighing the quality of a new brunch spot with a handful of precious criteria. First, as we all know, location matters. Whether you’re walking, driving, or taking public transportation, things like parking, ease of access, and surrounding shopping or drinking potential rank as key deciding factors. Speaking of drinking, beverage options… be they limitless or simply impressive in variety, the bev menu matters. However, beverages are great but not awesome if you’re stuck at the bar waiting an hour plus for a table. That being said, table availability is important.

Whether you and your crew are more comfortable at a bar or a table, ambiance is certainly also a part of the equation. Is the spot too loud to have normal conversation? Are the tables and chairs so close that it makes everyone feel crowded? Or, is the eclectic and positive energy precisely the vibe you’re looking for? Lastly, how tasty is the food. Yep, saved the best for last. Service may be meh, i might get sat on a patio that’s a tad more breezy than my liking, but if the food blows my mind, well then all is right with the world. So, let’s recap:

Top 5 Tips to Pick You Perfect Brunch Spot

  1.  Location
  2.  Bev Menu
  3.  Availability
  4.  Ambiance
  5.  FOOD, FOOD, FOOD

Keeping these 5 ingredients in mind, let’s discuss a few places which have the recipe for success in San Francisco. Toast Eatery has two locations in the Noe Valley area of the city both situated directly by the J – location(s), check! The food is fantastic and incredibly consistent. I’ve been here many times and still haven’t made it past the breakfast side of the menu. Favorite dish right now would have to be the corned beef hash. The savory plate is topped with two eggs (sunny side up if you enjoy that wonderful, runny yolk) served with hash browns and toast, of course. The omelets and scramblers here are large and in charge, or if you’re looking to keep it lighter, egg whites are available as well. Also, the salmon benedict is a must-try. The lox covered in hollandaise is one of those memorable tastes that lingers on your palate in just the right way.

Nestled just down the way from the 24th street location of Toast is Fresca, a Peruvian gem with bottomless mimosas! There are two additional locations if Noe isn’t your neck of the woods. With a spacious dining and bar area, you are sure to get a table when your hunger monster strikes. If you’re new to Peruvian, no worries – from ceviche, to mouth-watering tequenos, and beyond to bold and flavorful entrees, you’ll be back for many more return visits. If there are two, four, or six in your party, be sure that at least one person orders the Huevos en Cazulea. This mushroom, spinach and tender shrimp dish is enveloped in a rich lobster sauce. But wait, that’s not all. When your fork graces the bottom of the metal cooking vessel, you’ll discover a couple baked eggs which launch the flavor profile from awesome to extraordinary. With brunch like this, I most certainly have plans to check out lunch and dinner and dessert.

I’m a Texas girl at heart, so nothing makes me feel more at home than some eggy, meaty breakfast tacos. Luna Park, located on Valencia at the corner of 18th, has “Longhorn” Texas breakfast tacos that’ll make any Southerner feel just peachy. The two generously filled tacos feature housemade chorizo and are served with a small avocado tomato salad and a side of salsa. The tacos also include potatoes, which are as debatable to Texans as chili with or without beans. But, I found the potatoes to be the perfect texture to compliment the eggs and chorizo and not distract by being an extraneous filler. Be sure to make reservations on OpenTable to avoid lengthy wait times. Luna Park is only two blocks away from Dolores Park, so after your Fried Egg Sandwich or Chicken and Waffles, enjoy a sunny Sunday afternoon – be sure to bring a blanket.

Feeling At Home And Oh So Welcomed

Cheers!

It’s true, I now call the lovely city of San Francisco my home. I’m a little behind, but for good reason. Exploring the city has been one adventure after the next. The food and beverage scene here is thrilling. Did I mention the weather? The temps have been incredible. Being here helps me understand the term, “walk-able city”. Truthfully, walking to the places I want to check out is likely the only reason I haven’t put on twenty pounds! People here have been incredibly friendly and seem even more helpful when I let a “y’all” slip out.

From Peruvian to Japanese, there’s no end in sight to my culinary and cultural adventures. I’m excited to bring everyone along on my journey as I eat, drink, and travel around the bay area and beyond. Feeling both sentimental and ceremonious, I feel like I should begin this new endeavor with a toast. Friends, family, readers, and even frenemies, may all your problems be first world. Cheers!

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The Lovely Melissa Moves to San Francisco

Where has Melissa been? Melissa recently said ‘Adios Tejas’ and moved to San Francisco to explore the unlimited restaurants and bars. With San Francisco being one of the best cities in the world for food and culture, Melissa will have her hands full as she reviews every place she discovers. Stay updated with Melissa’s newest restaurant and bar reviews in San Francisco.